The Cold Equations

Base 10
that’s what we use for the counter
the magic integer flashes and strobes in subliminal bursts
of rage and shame

And I have once again been invited to this scam
this sham
this numbers game
given a front row seat
and to make my evening thoroughly complete

I have myself been given a number
whose purpose is to mark my place
my ranking
my position
my role
in this hopeless, unwin-able race

I wear it pinned
upon my face
and while some prefer the red letters
on their backs

I have found some peace in the silence
of my private, personal release

Once upon a time I was told
I had a voice like a steel blade
to cut deep and true
and a heart of genu-wine 24k gold

But it doesn’t hold
the value
it doesn’t make the numbers anymore
devalued and dull, it cannot be buried
cannot be sold

And now the hard equations
are becoming much too cold

It’s good on paper

It’s still good on paper
it’s bottom line we are all so proud of
and yet…

Well…divide by zero and see what the fuck it is you get

1992 (revised 2006)